Eight UK communities to trial cash promotion schemes

Eight locations across the UK have been chosen to test solutions that will help communities retain free access to cash, as the nation shifts to an increasingly cashless society.

The launch of the pilots follows the publication of the 2019 Access to Cash Review, which found that 17% of the UK population rely on cash, with vulnerable communities, including the poor and those in rural areas, at particular risk from reduced access to cash.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further heightened the problem, with many high street businesses spurning cash payments in favour of contactless transactions.

Natalie Ceeney, who led the Access to Cash review and is now in charge of the pilot projects, says: “The world is changing – we can’t just magic back our old bank branch and ATM infrastructure. Instead, we need to use innovation to develop new solutions as well as harness tried and tested approaches to meet people’s needs.”

The aim of the pilot schemes is to create new approaches to current challenges, which include helping local shops to give cashback, introducing shared bank branches, subsidising bus services to surviving branches, and the opening of local cash deposit centres for merchants.

Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance, says: “While our latest data shows that people are increasingly choosing to pay digitally, the banking and finance industry is committed to ensuring that access to cash remains free and widely accessible to those who need it.

“The impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in recent months has shown the importance of continuing to do so, and with retailers and businesses reopening their stores this week the sector is playing a central role in helping people to pay for the goods and services they need using the method of their choice.”

Jones himself won’t be around to oversee the outcome, having resigned from his post today over allegations of sexist remarks made about the financier Amanda Staveley during his time at Barclays Bank.